Michigan and Pennsylvania will emerge from the Tuesday elections with House legislative chambers evenly split between Republicans and Democrats in yet another sign of how narrowly divided the two swing states have become. The change will be at least temporary after House members in the states were elected to other offices and will need to resign from the legislatures.
Michigan Democrats who have controlled the governor’s office and slim majorities in both chambers of the Legislature will lose their full control after two state representatives won mayoral races. Democrats who have clung to a one-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House will soon see the chamber return to a 101-101 tie after a suburban Philadelphia incumbent was elected district judge.
Democrats have been able to push through a number of key pieces of legislation in Michigan since they flipped both chambers in the Legislature while holding onto the governor’s office in last year’s midterms, giving them full control for the first time in 40 years.
Two Democratic state representatives, Lori Stone and Kevin Coleman, won mayoral races Tuesday in their own districts in suburban Detroit. The wins will eliminate Democrat’s two-seat majority in the state House and put the chamber in a 54-54 deadlock until special elections can be held for the seats. Democrats will still control the agenda, but they will no longer hold a voting advantage.
It’s not yet clear when special elections will be held in the two districts — which each heavily favor Democrats — but it’s expected to at least be several months. The governor — in this case Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — may call a special election in the representative’s district when a seat is vacated, or may direct that the vacancy be filled at the next general election, according to Michigan law.
The entire Michigan House of Representatives will be up for election in next year’s November general election.
Coleman won his mayoral race in Westland while Stone won in Warren. Each is expected to be sworn into office later this month after the election is certified, according to local officials.
Democrats have known the loss of full control was a possibility and are expected to try to pass a number of bills this week before Stone and Coleman are sworn in to their mayoral positions.
Fueled by their midterm wins, Michigan Democrats have this year passed a gun safety package, expanded voting rights, free meals for all students and increased protections for abortion rights and LGTBQ+ people. The state also became the first in nearly 60 years to repeal a union-restricting law known as “right-to-work” that was passed over a decade ago by a Republican-controlled Legislature.
In Pennsylvania, Bucks County Democratic Rep. John Galloway, who was on the ballot as both parties’ nominees, could resign any time before taking the oath as district judge. The vacancy will then require House Speaker Joanna McClinton, a Democrat, to set a special election no sooner than 60 days later in the Democratic district Republicans will be eager to flip.
Under current state House rules, Democrats will maintain their majority unless and until Republicans win back at the ballot box the majority they held for a decade until last year’s election. For the time being Galloway, who did not return messages Wednesday, remains a state House member. In Pennsylvania, magisterial district judges, as they are formally known, handle lower-level criminal matters and many are not lawyers. ___
Schultz reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.